ITC's focus on product development has enabled the company to create one major new product each year

Suhani Singh speaks to S N Venkataraman, who is international sales and product development manager at ITC.

21 Jun 2010 | By Suhani Singh

Suhani Singh (SS): What are the key megatrends in your company that have benefited the Indian print industry?
S N Venkatraman (SNV): We have invested in capacity ahead of the curve thus fostering and fuelling the growth of package and commercial print in India.

SS: Does this include your manufacturing capabilities?
SNV: Our manufacturing capabilities have been upgraded to ensure leadership in each product category where  we are present. We were the first to introduce elemental chlorine free bleached (ECF) products and have since upgraded to light ECF with ozone bleaching stage for our pulps.

SS: What about BRC-IoP standards?
SNV: Yes, we were the first in India to get two of our paperboard production lines approved under BRC-IoP standards thus assuring our package print customers of the highest standards in processing food grade paperboards. We are in a constant process of dialogue with printer and converters, brand owning companies and end consumers and seek to improve the relevance of our products and services.

SS: How many products does ITC launch?
SNV: A strong product development focus has enabled us to create and launch one major new product each year. Raising customer productivity has always been central to our mission and our products  have kept pace with the requirements posed by a new six-colour press with inline coating units , UV printing and coating, faster die-cutting machines and folder-gluers, advancements in filling lines and  induction of digital print technologies.

SS: Your company has been in the news for the farm and social forestry ...
SNV: Quite true. Our  initatives in farm and social forestry has resulted in new plantations exceeding 100000 hectares raising productivity levels and providing additional incomes to farmers. Our Wealth out of Waste (WOW) programme to collect household waste has increased the collection and recycling rate and reduced litter. The main thing is, ITC's emphasis on the triple bottomline performance have meant that as a business we measure our performance holistically. Approval under the FSC Chain of Custody standards for our facilities at Kovai and Bhadrachalam demonstrate how we are passing on the benefits of this approach to our customers.

SS: According to you, is ITC a rule maker or a rule follower?
SNV: By investing ahead of the curve, starting new initiatives in plantations and waste collection and by continuing to remain relevant in our customer engagement we have shown the ability to lead and influence our environment.

SS: Today, market boundaries are changing ever more quickly, targets are elusive and market capture is at best temporary. A few companies have proven themselves adept at inventing new markets, quickly entering emerging markets, and dramatically shifting patterns of customer choice in established markets. How does one emulate such companies?
SNV: The best way is to remain customer focused and also be aware of opportunities and threats in the business environment so that  one can respond quickly. An open organisation culture, stress on customer and market engagement, encouragement to projects with high risk and high rewards and an adaptive management structure would  help large business in reinventing themselves in response to external changes.

SS: Benchmarking best practices allows enterprises to catch up with the competition, but it won't turn them into market leaders. Do you agree or no? Why?
SNV: Benchmarking tools like six Sigma are all based on the  premise of operational excellence which is only one of the requirements for a business to perform efficiently and deliver products and services to a standard. The ability to understand value to a customer, fostering innovation within and perceiving the sources of opportunities and threats in the business environment are possibly more important for survival and growth.

SS: What do you believe is the most under-recognised aspect in Indian printing that is likely to become important in the next decade?
SNV: Indian print shops are still evolving from a proprietary controlled organisation with old loyal employees and customers to one which is ready to acquire new technologies, induct specialists and develop systems to ensure a controlled manufacturing process with focus on quality parameters. With stricter regulations governing workplaces and increased demands by end-customers on compliance with environment, safety and hygiene requirements, the printing industry will have to modernise their facilities and relocate in some cases and spend more on training, re-skilling and improving knowledge levels of their employees.

SS: What does Green mean to you? According to you what should the Green model in the print industry resemble?
SNV: Sustainability is the word that best captures the essence of being green. Paper and printing substrate from a  verified source( with measures on emissions, energy and  water consumption reduce, reuse, recycle targets), targets on emissions, water and energy consumption monitoring of the press and converting units, employee health and safety, focus on sorting and reprocessing and proper handling of hazardous contaminants and their disposal would be part of a green model for the print industry.

SS: When you get stuck in a business deal or a project ... how do dead-ends become new paths?
SNV: In the process leading upto a stalled business deal or project our team of managers gain new experience , skills , insights and broaden their understanding. Very often we may seek a new partner for such business or use the newer skills and insights in other areas of our business.

SS: A lot of print companies have been struggling to cut costs. Most of them are discovering the hard way that they have for too long put up with too much redundant and wasteful activity. How do you mandate cost reductions and set targets?
SNV: We have introduced TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) in our factories and have formed work teams which use this methodology to reduce and eliminate waste, improve productivity and availability of our equipments. We benchmark ourselves with the leaders in each business segment and while improving asset productivity contract out services which are non-essential.

SS: What will your company do differently in 2010?
SNV: Our emphasis  through 2010 will be on improving our reliability measures for our existing business , addressing the needs of digital print market and increasing the  volume of our  products which we are selling under eco-labels like FSC.


PSPD is a supplier of paperboards, fine-papers and specialty papers to the Indian print and packaging industry. The business has four state-of-the-art plants located at Bhadrachalam, Kovai, Bollarum (near Hyderabad) and Tribeni( near Kolkata) with a total capacity of 550,000 tpy. The sales network reaches out to a customer base which comprises: food, beverages, FMCG, cosmetics, pharma, decorative laminates, cigarettes, safety matches, agarbathis, books, stationeries, catalogues, on demand print etc. The ISO 9000/14000/18000 company employs 3,000 people.